Thursday, March 26, 2009


marketing with love

i adore this article from ad age

kentucky fried chicken is filling potholes in their community - and branding them.

four or five years ago, i was working on a christmas catalogue an african-american beauty brand called carol's daughter. and the woman in charge of the project, clarisa, was someone i had worked with previously on an african-american haircolor brand called mizani.

both projects were really exciting for me because imho the african-american audience is underserved by marketing and communication. despite the fact that they ARE buyers of prestige products, the advertising geared specifically to the "ethnic market" is cheap and cheerful.

maybe not even so cheerful.

it assumes that they've got no money and even less taste.

ethnic hair products are generally embarassingly cheaply-packaged and full of questionable ingredients.

so i was excited about creating beautiful, sophisticated communication that spoke to an african-american woman's aspirations as well as her needs. work that was respectful and exciting. something that didn't speak down to her.

but in both cases, i suggested to clarisa that she reduce her advertising budget and instead do something that spoke the the community.

for mizani - how about helping women who've lost their hair to too much lye and haircolor? how about teaching them how to use products more effectively and how to protect their hair?

in the case of carol's daughter, it would have been the first christmas post-katrina. rather than an ad or even a printed catalogue i suggested they create a series of "travel kits" and deliver them to homeless families all over the american south.

they would gain the goodwill of the african-american community and they would also gain a lot of loyal users (because the products are great) who would purchase the products in the future.

needless to say, they ignored my suggestion.

i still believe that if you love your audience, you can always find a way to give them something to help them love you back.

because selling stuff is kind of like dating - and if you don't love the person you're trying to seduce - then sooner or later, they'll see right through it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

free or slavery?

when it comes to helping your friends, there is always a place where you have to ask yourself, "what is this worth?"

there's always a point when, because you're doing something for nothing, they run you round in circles "getting it perfect."

their answer is they are so personally-invested in the product, they are so close to it, that they have to call you at 3am with a BRILLIANT idea that disregards everything you've said to them so far.

everything that you've spent 15 or 20 years learning and perfecting and getting well-paid for doing.

here's where the problem starts.

most people don't respect what they get for free. (and if they get it for even half-price, somewhere in their minds, they are thinking that if they REALLY HAD THE MONEY they'd go to the expensive guy.)

perceived value. sadly.

i was talking to a lawyer the other day and i really liked her. so i said, "could i hire you?"

and she said, "you can't afford me."

and then of course, i was desperate to figure out how to get the money to pay for her services. she referred me to another lawyer who charges a very fair price and, of course, i secretly believed the other person was substandard.

that's why when your friend (or your mum's friend or a friend of a friend) asks you to help rather than hiring someone to design her logo or write her tagline, she is never totally happy with any of your work.

in the end, after you've worked like a dog, she takes your design/tagline - the style of which has been good enough for several multimillion corporations - and futzes with it in appleworks or something and decides that she could have just done it herself all along.

and when (if) she becomes really successful, she will hire fabien baron or doug lloyd or something.


i suggest that - unless you are helping a friend with a not-for-profit charity and maybe even then - you should charge them. even more if they are a family friend.

if they don't have cash, charge a percentage of profits or sales or something that equals what you would charge in real life.

you can have a contract that shows a donation of services to a not-for-profit

and/or one that requires them to mention you in any PR or press materials.

because not being appreciated when you're working for nothing is just slavery.

Friday, March 13, 2009

money for nothing

i go to a brilliant young acupuncturist called mona chopra who is just beginning to build her practice.

and since work is quiet these days, i asked if she wanted to do a trade - branding, copywriting, design, marketing strategy - for treatments. three days work at $500 a day - though of course it would be well more than 3 days for someone just starting out, but that was my cap.

she said, oh no, i don't think i can afford to invest that much in my business!

so i said, you will have to invest in your business whether it's in time or money, but i suggest you start some supercheap, viral marketing.

step one: sit and figure out your strength/point of difference. describe your practice in one sentence. and see why that makes you better or different than any other acupuncturist (or magazine or dance company or rainforest organization).

if it helps to brainstorm with someone, do it. but make sure they know a bit about the field and the competition across categories.

also, make sure they are going to brave enough to help you cut back on all your adjectives and long explanations.

last of all, make sure you make your description simple, short and clear.

make your name fun and friendly.

people want to be able to categorize you. that makes them understand you and have a platform to engage with you. otherwise, you are a hazy cloud.

if you seem to be something incomprehensible, undefinable - it's too much work - people will just walk past. especially right now. when the world feels so strange and scary.

so you need to give yourself a position that doesn't just make sense to you, but that makes sense to people who've never experienced - or even thought about what you do.

my friend mona worried that if she defined herself too much, she'd limit her audience.

i had to explain that the more you draw your lines, the more space there is to grow. it's a structure. and, right now, niche branding is appealing.

you know what you'll get.

and that's what you want.

step two: set up a facebook and a twitter account, a basic website and a blog. use your new positioning to describe yourself. put up a couple of posts so there's something for people to discover.

build a facebook group for acupuncture or join one and write a lot of comments.

make your website an informational site on acupuncture itself.

this is also your platform to describe yourself more fully. like a newspaper article - put the immediate stuff upfront, your position, your who-what-where-when-how and then slowly descend through the whys and back up to expand on the hows.

this allows the reader to learn about you at their own pace. or level of engagement.

step three: get out on the street. for instance, if you're an acupuncturist, you should go to spas, hair salons, vitamin shops, the whole body section at whole foods, juice bars. and hang out and talk to the people who work there.

tell them why you're so great. why acupuncture is so great. offer them a free treatment. give them your card and - if they enjoyed it or found it effective - tell them to pass it on.

put up your flyers and cards in gyms and yoga and pilates studios. take a class and make an effort to talk to the teacher afterwards.

and the thing is - if you really believe in your product - so will everyone you tell.

step four: take your needles out on the street. if you go to a party, take a small travel case and offer to show people quick remedies. or use acupressure to explain.

if you're sitting in the park on a nice day, have a friend sit on a folding chair and do a live acupuncture performance. explain to people who are watching what you are doing. give them a card. or a free mini-treatment. offer to talk at any events that need experts on chinese medicine or acupuncture.

step five: get online and look for blogs and websites that discuss acupunture and chinese medicine, then post comments. and make sure it includes your contact information.

the point being there are a lot of cheap pricks.

simply paying for advertising is too easy.

plus, no one believes it any more.